Blue is a rare color scheme from my cameras. I don’t work blue skies very often mid day . Most nights around the solstice (as here) are brightly colored. IT was an odd night. But the wind was dead calm. I thought that a trip a few miles into the backcountry to get to this place would worth the trip.
Backcountry…. I use the term all the time. OK, Here’s how it goes…
This pond is 2 miles of bumpy two track road from the county road passing through a seriously hard wire gate to pass through. Tight bastard it is… The nearest county road is gravel, it is 14 miles then to the closest paved road. It is 70 miles to the nearest 4 way 3 color traffic light but there is a 4 way flashing red light 50 miles away lolol. Back far away from population…. = Backcountry or at least that is my definition. My nearest neighbor is about 4 miles away. This spot is right at about 200 yards from the Montana/Wyoming Border and it has a bit of both states in the Image as do most of my photos.
The Dam was built by cowboys probably 100 years ago. Located directly on the Miles City to Newcastle Cattle Drive Route, many a herd over nighted at this spot historically. Wetlands are rare this high up the ridge. The crack in the earth that that lets the aquifer leak into this puddle is hundreds of feet deep into the Fox Hill Formation (The Beach sand of the Dinosaurs). I’m still looking for a fossil beach umbrella…..😜
Community Backcountry Meeting . (a very green Spring day 2019)
I came upon an obviously clandestine meeting in the backcountry. I saw them all simultaneously stop their discussion and look up at me. They were busy all before I showed up past some invisible line in the sand. Once I crossed that, the chatting stopped and all looked at me. I probably tripped some remote sensor. I understand that these guys are all about information sharing. Momma Pronghorn and her yearling were catching up on all the news from “up north” The Geese may have been raised around here or just in transit. They didn’t mention the specifics of their travel to me. I’m sure they got back to the gossip right after my passing. 😜
The Canada Geese get around thousands of miles while the Pronghorn Migrate 30 miles south to winter. The Thunderbasin National Grasslands are their winter range. Come Spring they head out in all directions. I suspect they head back to where they were born but I may be wrong. The Geese sure return to their birth place after migration. It’s all about networking I suspect…..
On a Personal Note:…..
I personally think they were talking about how empty the roads/airways were with all the humans bugging in. 👀
We hope you are all isolating yourselves for at least a full two weeks. Let’s slow the peak case load and spread that peak over a longer period. The trenches of this are at the hospitals. It’s up to us to keep healthy long enough so the case load doesn’t totally collapse the system. If the rest of the country is going through the motions of trying to save ourselves and the medical systems from total collapse, we’re going to have to go along. Please young people, isolate yourself, use bandwidth and play video games. Keep social isolation rules. Keep this stuff from spreading.
There are several families living in our compound here at the Bliss DInosaur Ranch. We all keep separate from each other for probably the next month and two weeks MORE IF anyone has to go to town. I’m going to miss fresh milk but powdered will just have to do. We contact UPS or Fed Ex with gloves on. Lysol things we have to look at fast, the rest of the mail can sit for a week or so. Let any bad bugs die in the dry UV rich desert we have here. Too windy to spread it out in the sun…… Wash your hands out there in the world folks.
This is indeed what a flat tire looked like 100 years ago. This old solder is tied along a fenceline high in the backcountry I suspect it’s 1930 vintage or before. The cattle every year rub on this wheel. Over the years this old wagon has had thousands of cattle rub and scratch on it. Wood rots very slowly here with 50 to 100 year old items like this still just looking like barn wood. Steel however will last a very long time.
I’m not sure what happened in the history of this device but I suspect the wagon it was supporting was overloaded and a rock appeared to start the dimple in the wheel. Once started the collapse cascaded and stopped the wagon in it’s tracks. This particular wheel was about 5 miles away from the nearest general store of the era so this might have not been a terrible thing. I suspect the 5 mile walk must have occurred in nice weather without wind, rain or snow to hinder the now on foot traveler to get help. There was no AAA tire service to come fix the rig either. No cell Phone, no landline phone, no radio. Word of mouth carried by hoof was the high technology of the day in this remote backcountry.
The red light from the JUST rising sun over my right shoulder is bouncing back off the projector screen the hoar frost on the trees provides. This is a common color I see when the “Belt of Venus” pink light comes down on the high ridge tops.
These 2 month old Pronghorn fawns were “up the hill” from my position. There were 5 adults and 8 fawns in a “nursery”. Adults often care for others fawns cooperatively. This the third capture finished from that encounter last spring. They were quite close when I caught these three moving out. A full frame high resolution capture taken from out the window of my Jeep Grand Cherokee (At that time). . I had been watching the group on a hill top 300 yards away for a while. They all ran toward me in an opportunity of a lifetime. I have a dozen images from this close encounter.
The vehicle obviously blended into the background as a non-threatening thing to them. When I accidentally drive into what I consider a group of pronghorn’s “uncomfortable zone”, I stop and start driving like a grazing animal would move. Stop, stay there a while. Start and move 10 feet stop for a while, rinse and repeat that process until I get into reasonable camera range. Say 15 minutes.. and it always doesn’t work…
I had an uphill shot to the group. Suddenly ALL the fawns took off running at the same time while the 3 doe babysitters didn’t flinch. Something startled them but not the adults. This group ran by my Jeep within 20 yards. Now could get inside groups of deer several times a day using this technique but not too often Pronghorns.
If you ask anybody which end of the Pronghorn you usually get the picture of, it’s not usually the front end. I’m thinking I have 2 other encounters were the animals were running at me. One time I was almost run over by a Pronghorn by accident. I was JUST over a ridges lip standing in a cattle trail by a fence (a natural funnel). He didn’t see me running up the other side until he crested the ridge maybe 10 feet behind me. I had a wide camera and did get that encounter too lolol. Spun and caught them running by my rig. Their (2 animals) hoofs threw dirt at me with their turn to avoid me. Almost a head on collision in the middle of nowhere. I’ve never wanted to collide with a Pronghorn at speed lolol. I’ll dig out that photo soon.
I had a lot of “conversations” with “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill. He is now famous (in his mind). Even though he is a “country innocent”, he is taking on habits of the young “indestructables” among us. 👅. He once gave up smoking years ago but somehow. Somehow he got all the gear to vape. Caught on camera here as he snuck up the hill to catch a “smoke” thinking that no one could see him. Telephotos have special powers that he is unaware of obviously 😜👀🤘
Now it is a Windmill Weekday and Windmill Junkies must Unite! I’m worried now about “Sneaky’s” general health and well being. What is a good friend to do when someone develops a “habit”. I might have to do an intervention of some kind. Poor “Sneaky Pete.
Boy I miss summer here in mid-winter. We are dead center of ice/mud/ice/mud season. We need 4 inches of snow a week with melts on the weekend every week till mid-may. I hereby formally make a request for such weather as long as the winds are kept calm for the baby wildlife and livestock populations that will start appearing in the next few months here in the high ridges of the area. For that fact here we go again with the cycle of “rebirth” that is the spring. We’ve made it past what is supposed to be the worst of the winter . This period of wet soil over frozen frost line saturates the upper crust. Daily thaw, freeze cycles churn and break down cobbles into pebbles, pebbles into sand, then silt, clay finally. My problem with this is the mud keeps me out of the backcountry.😔📸
Layers of landscape are always fun to find. The sun is so bright here that it overwhelms any light from the silhouetted areas.
Satire: The veiled sky three miles out into the backcountry here at “Re Pete’s” (the windmill’s) territory. He roams open country and does his best to photobomb my landscapes. Sometimes the only way I can get away is to go back in the timber. Windmills can’t follow you back in the Timber with those sail in the way. I no control over their actions 😜😜
Windmill Weekend (Windmill Junkies Unite). 🤛🤘 But don’t let your mother know you look at stuff like this.
Apologies: I don’t take as many windmill photos in the winter now that snow is covering many of my paths. Mud keeps me off the trails so as to not destroy them. We had several inches of blowy snow yesterday up on the ridges. Froze then melted off in the afternoon resulting in more mud and soupy soil frozen below, wet above . My rig (Ford Raptor), can easily do mud but I haven’t gotten it into the gumbo yet. I would only do so by accident of course as Gumbo (Bentonitic mud from clays derived from geologically processed volcanic ash. ) will stick a bulldozer let alone a baja truck no matter how well built.
In a few more years, I’ll be showing you images with branch shadow details with the full sunset behind . Cameras will then exceed our eyes abilities within the decade would be my prediction. Dynamic Range of camera versus eyes is a good google search.
Deer Watching Pronghorn Crossing (Headline in any rural newspaper as it’s pretty quiet up here)
With several things going on in this mid-summer capture, you might focus on the Pronghorn diving under the three wire fence. The highlight on which are as bright as I’ve seen lol. It was just the perfect angle. I’m parked about 300 yards down the road. The mother and two fawns were in a hurry to leave my proximity as I just had come to a stop. Pronghorn’s tend to move when you stop. Changes in motion trigger them to move in response as I see it. If your still all the time or moving all the time, your less likely to spook them. Vehicle photography of Pronghorn is much easier than on foot lolol. These American native long distance relative of the giraffe does not appreciate the human form (maybe it’s just me”…😜)
So… Pronghorn almost always go under fences. I read once where they can jump 15 feet high. (I have not see this). I have however seen them go 6 feet. I have less than 10 images of Pronghorn Jumping Fences. I have many more of them going under fences. 📸
This is however, the ONLY image I have of a doe deer “Watching the Technique” clearly displayed here used by countless generations of Pronghorn. Deer of course tend to jump fences.
I can’t tell you how much I want summer back. As I post this midwinter, there is either mud or ice in the backcountry. Iced / melted then frozen snow drifts are really bumpy. Mud is a problem this time of yearI try not to exacerbate by making ruts with my Raptor.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
Done in the camera (not a crop), I call this what I consider a “formally” framed image.👀 I took a great deal of precious time to precisely alight that gate with the edge of the frame. Hard to do with the angle I had to acquire to line up the banded cloud veiled moon. Camera lens distortion and other laws of physics applied. It was pretty dark too I point out as the sun hasn’t risen just yet that morning. Taken later in the fall after the first snow. All melted in this particular capture. It’s all covered by the white stuff at the time I post this in early March 2020.
There are only a few days a month when the full moon is still up while there is enough light to capture a landscape. A significant portion of those morning have obscured (as best) views of the setting moon. If I get one night a month where I get the full moon floating over illuminated landscapes, I consider myself lucky. What I do with that morning and where I choose to set up is not entirely random I point out. Knowing WHERE the moon is going to set or rise becomes relevant to the discussion when your ready to go out the door with a box o’ cameras. Compass directions of moon/sun set and rise are handy out in the backcountry. The cyclical changes in the orbits of the moon changes where it sets. As the seasonal migration of the sun north and south are variables.
For a 30 (ish) Horse Power Tractor, this 1939 International “M” Tractor had 270,000 made by 1954. It only weight 5400 pounds and has a 4.1 liter gasoline engine. This one runs if I put gas in the tank and hit the starter. It needs new rubber. This is out back near our corral system, in our yard but way off the beaten path. (We live in a 10 acre fenced in deer resistant compound ).
We keep a few big bales of hay around in case we actually have to feed our small herd of Corriente Cattle. They generally don’t need extra food but will happily take it lolol. The vistas from our homestead are BIG to the south west with 130 mile view when conditions permit. We have way more snow than the low lands we overlook. It’s a stark difference our front yard versus 300 feet lower topographically down by the rivers. No or little snow down there which is not a good thing. I consider the local snow cover as light this year. (March 3, 2020).
Mostly multigenerationally fixed / patched fences, old ranches have complex Corrals lolol. Those fences take a LOT of cow pressure particularly near the alleys. A 1500 pound bull pushing hard will be defined as “Cow Pressure”. . You might get 30 years of reliability, if a corral is made of treated wood posts. Corrals made of steel, it lasts a century or two. Oil Well pipe and sucker roads, cables, panels, wire panels, you name it are part of the fixes. Repurposed coal mine rubber belts (4 – 6 feet wide) for alleys. I have seen a host of other materials incorporated into many corrals. Free(ish) fencing is very popular. I’m seeing 4 different types of fences just in this photo. There are dozens of fencing generations in this grandfathered 80 year old corral system. Some originally built about the same time as this Antique Tractor.
Deer are all about grass seeds.. So is the antique Deering seeder. 😜
There are so many ranch stories from any one particular spot that will never be told or known by the public or for that fact history. Some epic, standard stuff sure and most were. But stories of sweat, toil and hard work by generations of cowboys and cowgirls in the borderlands of Wyoming/Montana. I look around at all the fence posts set deep in the ground on my ranch, I just shake my head in astonishment at the work. If anyone hasn’t hand dug a post hole, raise your hand, you know who you are .
This is true cowboy country. There is a huge cattle culture in this place complete with the uniforms for such. The both counties my ranch is about have WAY more cattle than people living in an area the size of a small state. Ranches can get large up here, not as big as some of the historic ones though. There are still a few 100000 acre outfits (outfits as they call ranches locally 🙂
This IH/Deering Seed Drill was certainly used in the 1920’s and 30’s maybe into the 40’s. There are several old homesteads from the 20’s (ish) within 3 miles of my place that I know about. Somewhere back then, the owner parked this complex machine meant to drop seeds with some precision into a prepared field. It was the last work it did… Planting Hybrid Grass seed was it’s primary job. I’m not sure what pulled it, maybe both horses early on and then the rancher got a tractor or a WWII surplus Jeep and pulled it with that. Many surplus Jeeps worked fields here in the west during the 40’s and 50’s. So many stories not told….
I even find fragments of historic leather harness “tack” for horse teams here along with the iron skeletons of old 2 seat carriages and abandoned buck wagons here on ranch. (The blacksmithed iron is fantastic.) There is about 110 years of European man living on this remote ranch in the borderlands. Over that century, many things have been put broken items “over the bank” and out of mind.
So the steep/deep gullies near old collapsed sod houses are prime hunting ground for iron antiques, glass bottles etc left over from previous lives. There are even a handful of car/truck skeletons from the 1920’s around and even some in the backcountry. I have a “Small” eclectice collection of select ranch artifacts carefully spread about in rock gardens around here. Interesting stuff for sure, pretty rusty AND rusty all 📸
Curve at the Border (remember early summer a few short months away).
A fairly well maintained county gravel road winds it’s way through my ranch. No pretense of trying to straighten this out using engineering principles back in the day. I’m pretty sure this trail was an animal trail when settlers first came here. This image was taken directly over/at the Montana/Wyoming border just before the local “pass” or high point of this particular stretch of 10 miles of gravel. That is over my shoulder.
It is 70 miles to the nearest 4 way 3 color stop light from this spot and several miles from the nearest county road. I was going for the artsy side of this winding road. The Pronghorn were barely looking up several hundred yards away grazing on one of our freshly sprouting hayfields. Green Grass is Rocket Fuel to them and every other animal grazing.
This spot is literally 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole at precisely 45 degrees north latitude (the Montana/Wyoming border too).🤔 We are also about 120 miles from the geographic center of the North American continent. You couldn’t get much further from an Ocean than this spot….literally lol. No local “Red Lobster” . It’s a good thing I have all this Cretaceous Hell Creek/Lance Formation Dinosaur Bearing Sandstones all over the place covering the ranch to keep me feeling like I’m at the beach..digging a hole in 100 degree sand when I look for fossils in the summer sun… 🤣.
We pay taxes in both states. My son went to HS in Montana, our main residence is Wyoming technically by 1/2 mile. We actually have about 1/2 the ranch’s land in either state.
The hundred year old Parks Ranch I’m presenting here is certainly a historic place. This old red barn in and of itself is a pretty nifty place to see where generations of real cowboys handled their stock. Cribbing horses having chewed on the wood of the pens withing the large structure. Groups of geese flying about the area.
The old house on this property was built from locally sourced wood in the early 1900s. Still habitable of course and a local family lives on the property in an adjacent home. The original homestead a HUGE homestead. Built for 2 families it appears. I’d say 10,000 square feet in the old house.
The property has old Ranch buildings galore with all sorts of thing about you would expect from such a cowboy center of activity. You just have to love a 100 year old cattle ranches.
Stock Trailers, head catches, pens, fences, branding ovens, tack, horses, cattle. Artesian lakes surround this wondrous place. . A few worn horse shoes scattered about mix with discarded or just disused tack from the past. There must be tales about tales swirling about in the history of this old Ranch. Men and Women toiling over the three day wagon ride round trip from Gillette Wyoming and back to home. The flow of time slowly submerges events away from our collective knowledge. What is so important at the time, perhaps a new dress for a ranch child growing up, seems lost in the past.
Location: Historic Parks Ranch Campbell County Wyoming. 4 miles south of Montana but there is Montana sky and mountains in the distance. A few miles south of the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch.
I am literally standing on the Montana/Wyoming border taking this shot. This is a favorite overlook of mine. A view to the north of the Mud Hills which is the first Mountain range north of my ranch. It sits across the 10 mile wide Ranch Creek Drainage. We call this place the “treed” pasture as it’s about 2 square miles of mixed pine trees. There are many parallel ridges/grassy hills with deep gullies between.
A land of many uses:
Cattle grazing during the summer pasture is a major use here obviously. Cattle can’t be pastured around pine trees in the winter as they will eat the needles. Those needles contain turpentine which will cause the pregnant cows to spontaneously abort. Several hundred cow/calf pair hang out around here for a month or two during Late May through Early July. We move cattle out of here in early July to facilitate the Wyoming Tactical Rifle Championship. Courses 3 and 4 use the borderland areas of our ranch. .
This ground has been home to a nationally ranked Team Tactical Rifle Championship for 18 years. Almost 4 miles of groomed rifle courses in 16 shooting stations. Exposing 150 fixed reactive steel Targets out to 1200 yards. This location is the last (or first) station on course 3 lolol. Snipers nest with literally thousands of precision rifle shots at those reactive steel targets down range.
There are a few dozen fossil locations (I’ve found so far) within this “Pasture”. Hell Creek/Lance Formation exist here that contain dinosaurian (and others) fossils. I found my first dinosaur tooth in this pasture 18 years ago. I knew they were here, I just didn’t know where. You do have to look though occasionally I stumble on dinosaur bones laying in the grass. They often look like any other stone in the middle of the prairie. I have found several fossil locations that way. You can’t find them if you can’t see them lolol.
We even have had a nationally released 4×4 video in 2008 filmed here. Peterson’s 4 Wheel Drive and Off Road Magazine filmed part of their “Ultimate Adventure” video series here that year. It’s out there if you want to watch several high end jeeps flip over. All trying to climb out of some of the soft sandstone lined gullies here on ranch.
This kind of Close Far perspective is a favorite way to deal with first light of morning. Fortunately this ridge had a 1/4 inch of Hoar Frost covering all the vegetation. I call these coated pine needles “Pine Noodles” as it just seems to fit. Add a fence for the far vanishing point due to the distance and we’re good to go 🤘
The earliest light as the sun is just rising has a decidedly yellow color cast on this particular morning. The Yellow light projected through the Alpenglow phenomena low on the horizon shows the color of light refracted by the ice suspended there. Transmitted to the local objects, pine needles and fences coated in ice make a very good projection/reflection screen. This yellow color cast is not that common on local vegetation. Usually it presents only perceptible on the atmospheric ice.
Hoar Frost usually forms on objects disrupting air flow. The air full of moisture under freezing conditions. DIrect condensation of that vapor from supersaturated air is greater then 100%. The formation of hoar frost is similar to the formation of regular dew with the difference that the temperature of the object on which the hoar frost forms is well below 32 degree F., whereas this is not the case with dew. Hoar frost crystals often form initially on the tips of plants and or other objects. I’ve seen vehicles, fences, tires, plants and even other icicles with Hoar Frost on them. The largest I’ve seen had frost feathers/needles almost 2 inches long.
Mule Deer Buck at Sunset (Odocoileus hemionus if you must know 😜) From Fall of 2019
Most of my deer encounters are random. I am traveling backcountry two track roads and I crest a hill only to see something like this. I’m always on the way to set up a landscape somewhere at sunset So along the way….. . I am after all a landscape photographer who likes to specialize in close/far perspectives from the viewpoint of a mouse. Being an opportunist and stingy with my time, I pursue animal photography as it occurs. This is in contrast to trying to make it happen.
Now I have at times known where herds were and with definitely intent drove carefully/slowly into the center of the herds with my Jeep Grand Cherokee. My trick is it takes a while, I stop and start the rig, move a bit, rinse and repeat. Look like another grazing animal. It might take me 30 minutes to integrate but heck, I’ve got tunes going😀. This guy tolerated the Engine running, stinky / noisy Jeep Grand Cherokee. I suspect my new ride is just as stinky but I believe it is much quieter.
This bad boy posed for my telephoto nicely. He didn’t even ask for wages / compensation. On the other hand he didn’t sign a model release. This was just after hunting season in this area. He survived… He likely was an itinerant buck just passing through it seems as I haven’t seen him again or since. Big bucks travel many miles in their wanderings.
Winter sets in deep during mid-February. The cycle of the year repeats over the century this ground has been settled/worked.. This tractor first chugged along in 1939. The first year of the International M tractor. I need to change the tires on it but it runs if I add gas and give it a jump. It has a crank on the front but I’m not as strong as I used to be. (or foolish). I’ve driven this around pulling this and that on the ranch over the time I’ve had it. Lost a tire a year ago and have to just cough up the cash lol. A big ranch operation takes time and money spent fixing things. 😜
The long late day winter sun throws deep shadow casts on the ice crystal projector screen the surface provides. The contrasts present were blinding to the human eye. Those in and of themselves are unable to behold such a scene unaided by technology. The Icy surface intensifies the glare reflecting into your vision. You instantly avert your eyes to avoid damaging them. Sunglasses would have been inadequate. You can not look directly at the sun with them. Mirrorless cameras have significant ability to turn down the volume on the incoming light. I see the scene on a video screen before I commit to take the image. You’ll want to have a full frame mirrorless before attempting this.
Disclaimer. Do not do this with a DLSR as there is a direct light path to your eye through the camera. This could EASILY blind you instantly. I only use Sony Alpha 7 R series cameras which has no direct light path internally to your eye.
As I am variously locked out of the backcountry by snow amounts and drifting, I tend to drive the backroads on mornings that are likely to light up. I saw the perspective, skidded to a stop, reversed and set up. I was trying to get that sunpillar centered within the visual tunnel created by the tractor tire. That tire is a “marker” as in, “drive 2 miles past the tractor tire” kind of directions. Some rancher planted this because it was easier than burying it completely. Fill up the inside with dirt and you stop the mosquito trap. It turned into a handy marker.
If I see an old “No Hunting” sign, I’ll stop just for that. Add a Tractor tire to that scene and you definitely got my attention. They on cue a sun pillar lined up precisely with the row of telephone poles running off in the distance. I don’t make this stuff up, I just capture the photons from it. Mother nature and ranchers got together here conspiring to make this composition. Neither party knew what they were ultimately up to I would speculate 😜😜👀📸
Sun Pillars are the result of falling hexagonal plates of ice all oriented flat as that is how they free fall. Like little parachutes they orient and reflect light off the gathering sunrise. The cumulative effect reflects light while the surrounding moisture absorbs it. Sun pillars can form above or below the sun itself. Here the sun is JUST below/behind the horizon. I don’t see a genuine purple sky too much but this one was real. Note no Purple snow.
A mere 6 months ago, middle of a warm summers evening, a sky show broke out…. THe evening was fairly calm with a light breeze. The air contained some grass pollen, some cottonwood pollen so my nose was a little stuffy. You could feel the relative humidity climbing as the air cooled down. Traveling up and down topography, you could feed obvious temperature changes as you moved from falling and rising air.
Every Once in a while, I like to do one of these vehicle mirrored images showing both sides of the sunset (in this case). It’s a commonality that all of us share. Most of us anyway have occupied the driver seat of a vehicle or two.
The Corriente’ Long Horns were out in the middle of a big grassy I sold this vehicle December 31,2019 . I loved my 15 year companion a 2005 Jeep Gran Cherokee. It worked very well for photography of the backcountry. It would pretty much go anywhere my ATV would which is saying something. The king is “dead” long live the king.
The 2020 Ford Raptor I am breaking in as a photographic platform is performing stellar in helping me find light. (so far) Already it has gone on paths I wouldn’t have taken the jeep on in mid-winter. It is stable, allows some movement inside of long lenses. It has WAY bigger mirrors plus they move out of the way with a button’s push. I will see what I get when the light is worth trapping. So far it gets me there…
I don’t see a lot of blue eyed cattle…. But how often do you get this close? 😜👀
IT was a crisp cool 45 degrees this fine spring morning. Blue Eyed Bertha was enjoying the dew covered grass. Spring growth just starting from the winter dormancy. Every year are cycles. This mother has given us 5 calves so far. Starting to get too old to be sure of breeding, she was “sent to town” this winter. Blue Eyes has made the transition from lawn mower to be part of the food supply.😔
Such is the cycle of things on a cattle ranch. We do sell cattle for beef after all. Trips to town are the eventual result of a calf growing up to a cow living a cows life. I’ve known some of these animals for quite a while. Honestly this gal was a little standoff(ish) and seldom would cooperate with me going left when I wanted her to go right. Some girls lolol.
The 5 years she lived up here were never years of want. She always had food, always had water along with free health care and a place to hang out. There were always things to see, others to gossip with, new places to mark with their leavings. She wandered over about 5 square miles mostly with her head looking at the grass. I wonder if she ever took the time to appreciate the views, the sunset or the sunrise. She never sent a complaint to the management but I’m sure the weather was a concern now and then lolol.
Twilight is the time of dark blue and pink in the sky. Spring is the time of the calving. Add the two and you get a story to be told in this Diptych side by side image. (2-20 inch squares).
Corriente’ Long Horns are a hardy group having come over first to the “Americas” in 1493. Their descendants walk down this hill slope in this capture. A solid unbroken line since then. Hardy souls all with very little care required for their up keep. Just standard vet care for cattle. They pretty much fend for them selves but will mooch off the other cattle about if there are any. Last winter my small herd of 32 Corriente were the only cattle on the ranch. Besides some lick and some salt, I only had to feed the 12 Large Bales over the winter. They paw the ground to expose grass similar to how Buffalo do it.
I actually took this through the fence that surrounds our “compound. I had just returned from a photo mission and was closing up the homestead for the evening.. You know, closing gates so deer don’t cross them, putting the chickens to bed locking them into their coop. In the same motion I lock the creatures that don’t need to be in with the chickens out. We have a 8 foot high deer exclusion fence around about 10 acres we live in. It’s high and it’s electric. Not too much get’s through it. My cats negotiate it occasionally. I’ve actually seen where they get through and fixed several places but keeping out skunks is a tough one. I have kept porcupines at bay with my fences.
Meadowlark All Ruffled Up ( a bit out of season but surely welcome. I’m tired of the ice/mud this year ).
Taken under EARLY morning yellow sunlight adding a colorcast to the entire image. I was just digging the Orange Lichen on the post. It takes a long time (decades) for that much to grow. The old cedar post could be 114 years old as it’s fairly close to the homestead. There are a lot of very old posts in the backcountry. We have 30 miles of fence that I have done some repairs on a time or two. 😜
The tendency of a Meadowlark encounter is to be random. They occur often while driving in the backcountry along fence lines. I often am traveling along a two track backroad only to see 50 foot ahead a meadowlark on a fence. If you stop too close, they will fly away. But if you stop “just right” and don’t move at all, they won’t fly for a while. If you move AT ALL once you come to a complete stop, they will fly quickly away. This is a law of nature that I’ve only seen ONE bird out of hundreds ignore. He is another story. This is a wild Meadowlark way out in the backcountry. Drove up on him.
This guy was very tolerant of my Jeep as it approached. I stopped about 20 feet away. At that distance, with an 800mm fast lens, I can focus on his eyelashes. The hard part is getting 20 feet away from a wild bird. They frequent this whole area with 5 or 10 birds an acre sometimes. I’ve seen a bird fly every few seconds before driving two tracks. If I go slow, their songs permeate the quiet. Up here it can be so quite that you can hear your heart beat. Not during Meadowlark season lolol. They are all gone now for southern Climates as we are sub-arctic at the moment.
I know this deer as “Goal Post” I’ve watched him grow up since he was a fawn. He is really obvious as he is missing his brow tine over his right eye. He has already shed his winter coat as he’s looking quite well groomed here. Goal Post is 4 years old here from last spring 2019. He will be 5 in the spring. It will be interesting to see if grows much bigger antlers this year. He has never grown in that brow tine though. He just doesn’t have it in him I think lol.
Familiarity of myself with deer is a photographic asset for me. . His herd is one of several different groups I have been able “get used to me”. I have in the past been able to drive my rigs right into the herd without spooking the group. Intermingling with herds of deer is a very interesting activity to say the least lol. I just traded in my Jeep Grand Cherokee they were used to. Now I drive a Ford F150 Raptor (all black) which they don’t know from Adam. We will see if they are tolerant of the vehicle or not. I’m betting that it’s the way I approach the herd rather than the particular vehicle. I do my best to drive up like a grazing animal. Move, stop for a while, turn a bit, move, stop, move etc. rinse and repeat.
Watching families of deer grow up is a pass time sub hobby of mine. This doe and her 4 month old fawn is moving along a grassy hill on a parallel ridge to me. They feel safe with me as I’m pretty much just another grazing animal. The group of deer these two belong to are well known to me. IT’s much harder to tell the girls apart than the guys. A three year old doe looks pretty much like a four year old doe. A year difference in the males will be really obvious. Anter size, shape and neck girth are usually unique in the males. The older battle tested males have torn recognizable ears unique to the individual.
My tracking of deer individuals is of course informal and spotty. I don’t necessarily see the same group every day. I do recognize groups though as they move around the ranch from haunt to haunt. There are certain places that each group will tend to hang at. Not reliably but tendency comes to mind. The exception is their daily trek to water which deer being a creature of habit, cooperate in the summer. I’m out more of course in the summer. NIt’s not necessary to
Deer have a gestation of around 200 days, this is not quite rut when this photo was taken so I’ve giving him 120 days since birth. This is probably a yearling doe as older does usually have twins.
The Belt of Venus variety of Alpenglow enhancing a rising full moon with it’s man (in the) looking back. This was just after the sun set over my right shoulder. It was an orange sky the other direction. Long wavelength red light makes it through the atmosphere to light up on the projector screen that this summer ice filled sky provided. Summer Belt of Venus is way more uncommon than in the winter.
Rising moons will alway have that face upright looking at you. The setting moon that face is on it’s right side. The moon appears to twist as it rotates but that’s an illusion. It’s actually you that twist as the earth rotates and look at the two different horizons for moon set and rise. It sort of depends on how far north or south of the ecliptic (good google word) the moon is.
Getting the Reflections of a Full Moon in the Borderlands of Wyoming/Montana is a matter of finding a lake lol. We are mostly a dry land ranch. A few small ponds near our well driven hydrants are sparse on the ranch. This one is no exception being hydrant driven. A ranch pumps a lot of water. Fortunately a wet year to kept this lake full all year. This was mid summer with heavy due on the grass and twilight skies miles into the backcountry. It was a wonderful drive to go there that morning.
6 months ago, In a backcountry far far away… (scrolling text talking about Jedi)
Backcountry…. I use the term all the time. OK, Here’s how it goes…
This little mirrored pond is 3 miles of bumpy two track paths from the closest county road. The county road is gravel, it is 14 miles then to the closest paved road. It is 70 miles to the nearest 4 way 3 color traffic light but there is a 4 way red light 50 miles away lolol. Back far away from population…. = Backcountry or at least that is my definition. My nearest neighbor is about 4 miles away.
I find that you “are where you are” when the sun goes down. I tend to levitate to reflective scenes but this I live on a “dryland” ranch. We don’t have any running water except during a big rain. Then we have flash floods lolol. Limited to the gullies fortunately. We did have a 4 inch rain in about an hour during which shin high water was running around the back of my house. So we do get some water dumps now and then.
This lake I have seen run dry before but not this year. We were way above average moisture accumulation. It remains full through totally iced over at the moment lol. (January) . Living in the backcountry tends to boil down life to the essentials. I find that photography, simple is usually better. Wood, Water, Grass and Sun combine for this composition.
Alfalfa Bloom Game Trail (Back to the Summer Farm in the Winter)
I’m easily distracted by a play of colors and shades in monocultural fields surrounded by less disturbed landscapes. The cultivated field in contrast to the sage and grass natural turf. This particular ground has had european man’s stock grazing it for over 120-130 years and probably longer. But before that this was all native prairie. Still some in the background.
This particular alfalfa field is down low in the Little Powder River valley and tends to be flooded every now and then. It’s on a terrace not far from that small meandering river. The river rises (comes down in local vernacular), and the fields flood in the spring. Snow melt and big rains up stream are the biggest causes for floods in this country.
Meanders result from the river moving back and forth across the landscape over geologic time. A meandering river is one that is NOT cutting down into the sediment and the local geology. (River’s Base Level is a good google phrase). It only can expend it’s energy on the sides/banks as it moves across the valley back and forth. It takes a few years to work across a valley lol. There is SOME gradient to this river so the Little Powder seems to be to be slowly down cutting into the valley floor. Don’t expect the Grand Canyon to form in this Climate during our lifetime. One grain of sand bouncing down the bottom down hill at a time wears down mountains over long enough time. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Location: Near the Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
Ranchers work hard in the summer often cutting several square mile fields of grass. The result is to gather hundreds of these 1200 pound Bales into piles. “Hay stacks” literally or more precisely, Stacked Round Bales. . I’ve seen some fairy prodigious heaps of grass before. Large Tractors with grapple buckets pile these three high. There is a LOT of hay in this “stack”. Several local ranchers (you know who you are) just raise grass, some just cattle and most raise both. There are not a lot of sheep herders up here in the high country that I’ve noticed. I know there are sheep operations around the area but most of the ones I know are down in the river valleys.
This was late in the year and the sun was far right of this almost perfect east/west trending Hay Stack. As the winter fades, the sun will slowly rise further and further to the left. Each day it moves a little more to the north as we orbit around the sun.
The green biodegradable netting around the hay is cut away before feeding the bale. We currently have our Herd of 34 corriente corralled and I’m feeding bales. Feeding a bale every 2-3 days, the Corriente Longhorns patiently wait for me to pull it off the bale. I always have to turn my back on them to do it so some day I may get got. 👀😵 Once I’m gone, all heck breaks loose and the pecking order slowly takes over. Everybody eventually gets their fill lol.
So I’m up on a high ridge for twilight. The sun is down for 5 minutes and the clouds are lighting up with a still blue sky above. I was driving my Polaris Ranger Crew UTV that has 2 bright LED lightbars on the front. I sat down right up against the front bumper in the grass. I brought a 12 mm wide lens but I cropped the image down to the center since the edges were all dark. Only the center was bright enough to recover. I only expose the highlight properly and worry about the dark later. This actually came out much better than it could have.
Close / Far perspectives under low light are rather tricky to capture. It’s takes a basic understanding of the requirement to use Manual mode on your camera to catch an image like this. High F-stop numbers, Long shutter speeds (tricky with moving grass), and perhaps a higher ISO to add a little camera sensitivity. Your priority here is depth of focus field. To get close grass AND the sky in focus at the same time requires you to use that requirement as your first priority. F-stop is the baby here. The other two settings are to get enough light to compensate for the high Fstop (very small hole in your lens to let light through). You have to realize that fstop is a double edge sword.
I’m pretty sure that light can not get “flatter” than this but I could be wrong. What I love about this image is the huge number of grey’s there are resultant from that matte screen. This was pretty far away from the gravel / county road out to the ranch bone yard. The drifts between the plowed road and this old plow are numerous and sometimes high and wide. Short Drifts you can punch through, Wide drifts you go around or you get stuck lol
The Ranches “Bone Yard” is a small patch of ground populated with disused antique farm equipment, good scrap metals and old stuff generally. Some of it is serviceable, some of it is not. A little welding here/there, then a tractor and your discing with anything that will pull the thing. There are many spare parts out in the boneyard.
I spent a month one year cleaning it up of mostly wood and old tires which are now buried in a building materials only landfill. It’s taken full trailers of steel from long times past from that boneyard when steel scrap was worth something. I’d get 400 – 500 dollars a load or scrap steel back in the day. There are still a LOT of equipment there that no doubt traces it’s history back to the beginning of the ranch. 100 years of accumulation leaves some interesting stuff lol. I’m thinking that every ranch of any size and length of ownership has a similar “Bone Yard”.
I’m always on the look out for framing deer inside of antlers of the foreground animal. A little out of season perhaps.
With all the cold weather coming in this image came to mind that spring isn’t that far away. The sage brush that time of year is a wonderful cyan/green color, the deer have all new coats. Their rapidly growing antlers are covered with the capillary blood vessel rich “Velvet” covering the bone under supplying it with nutrients.
Sometime later in the year they antlers will stop growing. The velvet starts to itch and they will rub those antlers tearing the velvet to ribbons. They will rub on any bush or tree unlucky enough to be in their path. Deer rubs on trees are good signs of deer activity and you can usually tell how recent they were.
Reminder: Photographic Musings (memorize this)
Terms you need to know: (F-stop) is your aperture size. The size of the “pupil” inside your lens. Big pupils (low fstop numbers) lets in a lot of light but your depth of focus is thin and shallow. (the eye is in focus but your ears are not). With a high F-stop number, you get a very deep field of focus/depth of field. The whole face and the trees behind the face are all in focus. This is because a high f-stop number makes a very small pin hole for a “pupil” in your lens. F-stop is one of three settings you adjust in Manual mode. It is a double edged sword, deeper focus field comes from having a small aperture “pupil” which means less light. Light is what your balancing here. The other two settings compensate for what your doing with f -stop in this case.